The Oklahoma City Thunder have defeated the San Antonio Spurs in game 6, 113-99. By virtue of OKC winning the last three games, they have won their semifinal series against the Spurs 4-2, and now will move on to the Conference Finals to take on the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
In a game and a series that has brought both high level competitiveness as well as uncertainty for a number of players heading into the offseason, San Antonio's leader Tim Duncan attempted to set the stage for the Spurs to earn a game 7. Midway through the first, it appeared that he and the desperate Spurs were about to do just that. But then, the Thunder loosed their arrows to blot out the sun. If Kawhi Leonard actually spoke he might have shouted out, "In umbra, igitur, pugnabimus!" But even then, those arrows.
The Thunder let fly and buried the Spurs in the first half, outscoring them in the 2nd 30-12 to take a 24 point lead into halftime, with Durant burying a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send OKC into a halftime frenzy.
As much as the 2nd quarter created the spread that the Thunder needed, the 3rd quarter is what eventually decided the game. The Spurs came out in the 2nd half in true desperation mode, with Leonard in particular morphing into a stretched out version of Russell Westbrook. He attacked the lane, fired up shots (23 in total), and pushed the Spurs offense into a frenetic zone. However, the Thunder answered every bell. Despite the Spurs scoring 34 points in the 3rd, OKC matched them point for point and in the end actually increased their lead to 26 heading into the deciding quarter. Had OKC not been able to complete the 3rd the way they did, they may have set themselves up for the most demoralizing of losses.
Because in the 4th quarter, everyone wearing blue and orange stopped breathing. The Thunder offense ground to a halt, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook taking turns hoisting long jumpers that clanked off the rim. Meanwhile, Leonard and company continued to fire until the chamber was empty, and with 3:12 remaining and OKC clinging to an 11 point lead, the game was perhaps decided. The Spurs, running Tim Duncan off a high pick and roll, set up Duncan beautifully and he had a clear path to the rim and nobody for the Thunder knew what was happening. However, at the last second Serge Ibaka, much maligned in 4th quarters in this series, reacted the way Thunder fans have come to expect, flew across the lane, and blocked Duncan's dunk attempt Racing the other way, Westbrook found Durant for a dunk. A possession later, Russell Westbrook buried a 28 foot 3-pointer to push the lead back to 14, and San Antonio's sands of time were about to run out.
The Thunder pushed out to their big lead and then hung on in the end on the strength of their starters. Durant finished with 37 points and 9 rebounds, while Westbrook finished with 28 points and 12 assists. Steven Adams was once again the big man on the night, finishing with 15 and 11 with 2 steals and a block, meaning that Adams finished the series averaging 11 and 11 with 70.3% shooting from the floor. Ibaka was quiet offensively, but regained his defensive composure and recorded 3 blocks in protecting the rim. The biggest surprise however was Andre Roberson, who finished with 14 points (3-5 from 3-point range) and 7 rebounds and one hellacious steal against Kawhi Leonard in the 2nd half.
Roberson out-hustles Kawhi. https://t.co/6Oz2nGTmGc— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) May 13, 2016
It was the kind of thing that Kawhi does to others, but perhaps this is the first series where a defender has played Leonard as hard as he defends against other offensive players, and the play underscored the Thunder's control over the Spurs on a physical aggression level that San Antonio ultimately could not match.
There is much and more to be said about this series, but for now, it is good to know that the underdogs won and OKC moves on.
Thunder vs Warriors game 1 scheduled for Monday at 7PM CDT.